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Volume 691: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn, has made the following Statement.

On 4 April, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, I announced that the UK will commit £30 million to mine action over the next three years.

It is now eight years since the UK ratified the Mine Ban Treaty (the Ottawa convention). Since 2001 the Department for International Development has contributed at least £10 million per year on global mine action. Much has been achieved by the international community during this period: mine casualties continue to decline; there is virtually no trading of anti-personnel mines anywhere in the world; over 30 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed; and large areas of land have been cleared of mines and rendered productive again. The UK has made a significant contribution to this in a number of badly affected countries. For example, since 2002 DfID has spent over £6.5 million on demining projects in Afghanistan; during that time the number of casualties has more than halved. Similarly, DfID has provided over £2 million in Cambodia where the number of casualties has dropped from over 1,500 per year in the early 1990s to under 500 in 2006. More recently, following the conflict in Lebanon last year, DfID provided over £2.5 million for rapid response to remove cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance from residential and agricultural areas.

Despite this, there remains much to be done. Casualty rates in the worst affected countries remain unacceptably high, as does the social and economic impact. Many countries are still heavily dependent on the support of the international community to deal with mines that contaminate their land.

Over the next three years, we will focus our assistance on direct mine action, and building developing country capacity to carry out mine action while continuing to encourage countries to ratify the Ottawa convention. We will aim to reduce the impact of mines in developing countries through support to well established and effective demining organisations. And we will help mine affected countries develop the means to manage and deal with the remaining problems themselves.